Charity founder Brian Burnie (74) is walking the entire coast of the Island of Ireland on a six month, 2,000 mile challenge to promote free cancer patient transport across the UK and Ireland.
And Down News caught up with Brian as he arrived from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England on his journey and passed through Newcastle, County Down, on Thursday 11th April.
Remarkably, Brian is a Parkinson’s sufferer, and he arrived in Newcastle County Down on World Parkinsons Day.
In County Down Brian and his wife Cheryl stayed at a B&B in Attical and he said: “The view from the front window down to the sea was absolutely magnificent. This is such a beautiful place.
“I am funding this walk on my own. None of the costs will come out of any funds raised. It is vital that we get this cancer care transport system set up. It is important and for people who have transport issues whether they are in rural areas, can’t drive, have mobility issues, or can’t afford public transport and taxis or just for other simple reasons find public travel far too difficult and inaccessible. This is a national issue and we must address it.”
Brian was a retired consultant problem-solving engineer, and he admits that he is using his life-long professional problem-solving skills to address a fundamental issue in the health service, the transport of cancer patients to their treatments.
To raise awareness about his mission, to provide a million hours of patient transport, he has walked over 3,000 miles around the coastline of Scotland, Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside and North Wales. Last week Brian Burnie arrived in Dublin to continue his 7,000 mile walk around Great Britain and Ireland.
Recently married, Brian and Cheryl arrived in Ireland on their challenge to create one million free cancer patient journeys nationwide.
Departing Holyhead on-board Stena Line’s ‘Adventurer’, Brian met with Capitan John Hambley-Jones who said: “I am delighted to meet with Brian and Cheryl. On behalf of Stena Line and our entire crew, I would like to extend our best wishes to them both on this incredible 7,000 mile walking challenge. We look forward to hearing of their achievements on their return crossing, Autumn 2019.”
Brian has been instrumental is setting up the North East England-based Daft a Brush Cancer Patient Care which offers 30 staffed custom-made vehicles to transport outpatients, free of charge, to and from hospital, where they are undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy cancer treatment.
The charity provides 40,000 cancer patient journeys annually by 350 volunteers.
Brian is looking forward to this new chapter in providing this cancer care facility for sufferers. He said: “Who would ever have thought we’d be on the Stena Line Adventurer from Holyhead to Dublin? It’s quite stirring actually as I’ve now walked over 3,000 miles to this point. When we arrive in Dublin, I start walking anti-clockwise towards Belfast and around the island of Ireland. I feel this is a very special time for us – a new chapter of the walk begins. Ireland, here we come!
“My wife and I planned to live on a double decker bus, ‘the Bluebell’ for the duration of the Ireland trip but the bus developed a valve issue and is being repaired thanks Bus Éireann who have been extremely helpful.
Dublin Bus Éireann Technical Manager Ray Connolly said: “We are happy to help. When we first heard about Brian’s walk for cancer patients, we immediately wanted to offer support. The team at Bus Éireann are delighted to help in anyway we can and we wish Brian good luck walking the entire coastline of Ireland.”
Walking up to 20 miles a day is testing for Brian, who is also dealing with the effects of Parkinson’s disease. He said: “I fully admit I have struggled at times, but chatting to people I meet and the support from my wife Cheryl, really keeps me motivated and determined.
“My feet are in good shape and I don’t carry any rucksacks so I can walk freely which is much more comfortable. I am amazed at the friendliness of the people here and also the beautiful countryside. It is breath-taking.
“My mission here is to spread the word about our project. I have arranged to meet a top oncologist consultant in Belfast in early May and already St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin is backing us.
“One thing I’ve heard so many times on the walk, is that patients struggle with transport to and from hospital on a daily basis. In the North East of England we are part of their journey to recovery – let’s bring the free service to patients all over Great Britain and Ireland.”
Brian’s first experience of the coastal walk was from Dublin Port, Portmarnock to Skerries. He said: “The coastline is magnificent to walk, I’ve been blessed with amazing weather and I have met such lovely people on Bull Island, on the Cliff Edge Walk near Howth and at Skerries.
Before I walked too far out of the City, I wanted to take an afternoon off to visit O’Connell Street, the Post Office and the Guinness Brewery. At Temple Bar, Cheryl and I enjoyed a glass of real Guinness with great hospitality. I am looking forward to walking back into Belfast, that will be another opportunity for a celebratory glass.”
Brian’s dream to create 1,000,000 free cancer patient journeys on his 7,000 mile walk is starting to take-shape. With over 3,000 miles walked, he’s prepared for 2,000 miles in Ireland and another 2,000 back to the North East in late 2020.
You can follow Brian’s walk and discover more at: www.bluebellbus.org.uk
Who are ‘Daft as a Brush’?
Daft a Brush Cancer Patient Care based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne offers staffed custom-made vehicles to transport outpatients, free of charge, to and from hospital who are undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy cancer treatment. The charity provides some 40,000 cancer patient journeys each year operated by over 350 dedicated volunteers.
The service entails collecting and transporting patients in a safe and comfortable environment from where they are living to where they will be having their treatment. If required, a volunteer companion will stay with the patient during their Chemotherapy / Radiotherapy. We return the patient to their home in readiness for their next course of treatment.
Founder, Brian Burnie is promoting the Daft as a Brush Charity nationwide by walking the entire coastal path of Great Britain and Ireland in 2 years, with a converted double decker bus called ‘Bluebell’ as his home. On his return, the charity aims to create over 1,000,000 cancer patient journeys.
Further information available at: www.daftasabrush.org.uk Discover Brian Burnie’s 7,000 mile walk at: www.BluebellBus.org.uk
(Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care, Daft as a Brush House,Great North Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 2DR).